We've struggled with these same questions, so we reached out to an expert to find out the answer once and for all.
We spoke with Debra Myhr (a PT, DPT, MOTR, and ATC at OrthoCarolina) to ask her all of our questions about rest days and whether they matter when it comes to crushing our fitness goals. Here's what she had to say.
Ideally, How Many Days Per Week Should You Work Out?
As far as the split between cardio and strength training workouts, she said they should ideally be split up evenly.
"It is best to do three days a week of weight training and three days of cardio a week," she explained. "The key is to remember that each body region you workout needs at least 24-48 hours of rest following your workout."
Do You Actually Need to Schedule a Rest Day as Part of Your Fitness Routine?
"Rest days are important to prevent overuse injuries, and to allow for muscles and body to recover from the exercise," Debra explained. "You are creating small tears in the muscles as you work them, so it is important to give them rest. It also allows the immune system to recharge, since it is being taxed to repair your body from the stress of physical activity."
How Often Should You Schedule a Rest Day?
What Activities Should (and Shouldn't) You Partake In During a Rest Day?
To be clear: the WORST thing you can do on your rest day is absolutely nothing. You want to aim for light, gentle movements.
"Avoid strenuous activities which would put more stress on the body. Rest days can consist of normal activities such as walking, light cardio, etc. since they do not stress the muscles that need the most rest. These activities also help lactic acid to move out of the muscles," Debra said. "Stretching is also a great exercise option for rest days, because most people forget to do that throughout the week during their normal workout routine."
Aside from walking, light cardio, and stretching, Debra recommends focusing on some other non-fitness-based activities during your rest day.
"Rest days are great days to meal prep and to plan your meals for the week, in order to have proper nutrition for your health and fitness goals," she said. "Sleep is also an important aspect of recovery because it allows the body time to repair and heal in a non stressed environment."